NEWS

US congressman who flew to occupied north of Cyprus to press for flights to Washington

ANKARA (AP) – A US congressman said yesterday that he will press for permission for Turkish-Cypriot airlines to begin flights to Washington, a step he said could push Greek Cypriots toward agreeing to the end of the isolation of the Turkish-occupied north. Rep. Edward Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, flew into Ercan Airport in northern Cyprus on Monday with three other members of Congress in defiance of Greek-Cypriot opposition. The self-declared Turkish state in northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey. «We do hope that the gesture of flying into Ercan Airport will send a message to the president of the Greek Cypriots, Mr Papadopoulos, that the international community is not going to sit by idly while northern Cyprus is isolated,» Whitfield said. Although the visit angered Greek-Cypriot leaders, Whitfield said that he and his fellow Congress members plan to press for a further easing of the isolation of Turkish Cypriots. Whitfield said he will suggest when he returns to Washington that direct flights by Turkish-Cypriot airlines to Washington be established, as well as exchanges of students between Turkish-Cypriot and US universities. «The only way that Mr Papadopoulos will be changing his views on including all of Cyprus in its economic growth… will be when he sees that his maintaining the status quo will not have benefits for him,» Whitfield said. «We are hoping these small steps as we take them will lead to greater benefits and hopefully reunification sooner rather than later.»